Case Study

Effective Handling of Senior Member of Staff with Troubling Sickness Problem


Special Leave of Absence Refused, But Employee Still Took The Time Off Work

Most organisations will have some form of process for authorising other types of statutory and non sickness related leave for their employees. This will include time off for annual leave, flexible working, emergency leave, parental leave, religious reasons etc. But what happens when an employee decides they will take leave when it is not approved by the employer?

What was the HR situation?

  • The HR consultant assisted the headteacher in the interpretation and effective management of their special leave of absence policy, ensuring consistency and fairness.
  • The client had reminded all their staff at their induction and at the beginning of each school year about management arrangements for any leave of absence requests, including a briefing from the HR Consultant.
  • A member of the school admin team had requested ten days leave to attend a specialist conference during school time.
  • This request was refused by the headteacher in line with their discretion and, in accordance with policy and due process. The employee appealed the decision.
  • The appeals committee consider the request, the evidence/facts, the policy and sought advice from HR.
  • The appeal is not upheld, the request is refused, and decision is final.
  • The employee decides to attend the event. This was unauthorised leave.
  • The employee believes that they are entitled to take the leave.

What was the outcome and how did HR add value?

  • This appeared a fair reason for dismissal, as the allegations were sufficiently serious to be classified as gross misconduct, i.e. employee requested leave and this has been legitimately refused in line with due process, yet the individual took the time off anyway, knowing the potential consequences.
  • The offence could amount to insubordination (refusal to follow a reasonable management request and breaks trust/confidence between manager/employee) and breach of contract.
  • The employee was fully aware of the potential consequences of taking the unauthorised leave.
  • Governors had to consider the wider operational impact if an employee decided not to attend work in line with their contractual obligations and impact on the young people/colleagues.
  • The HR consultants helped the client to prepare for the formal process, ensured that governors considered the general principles of fairness, representation, confidentiality, natural justice, ethos, right to appeal, risks, equal opportunities, specifics of the individual case and policy framework. 
  • The HR consultant provided a briefing for the panel, so they were prepared, drafted the outcome letters and other documentation.

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